Saturday, May 21, 2011

Predictable Pirates

Directed by ROB MARSHALL

It's no secret that hollywood ran out of ideas a long time ago.  For those of you who aren't aware of this, there are 27 sequels set to be released this year alone.  The 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise is just another victim of the sequel machine--a popcorn movie, with ridiculous story lines, little substance, and great visuals.
That said, the latest pirate flick is better than it's last two predecessors.  The movie automatically goes up a notch with the noticeable absence of Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom.  For that reason alone, I enjoyed this sequel more than the atrocious Dead Man's Chest or At World's End.  All in all, I would say that the original film is still the best.  It's rare to see a sequel that's as good or better than the original. 

Unfortunately, most of these mediocre sequels will be released in 3D.  I had hoped that 3D finally went out in the 1980s, but no, after a brief absence in the 90's, 3D is back with a vengeance.  Now every movie is in 3D.  I don't think Hollywood has accepted this yet, but audiences don't want to wear ridiculous glasses and see things jump out at them.  I flat out refuse to pay an extra $3.50 to see a crappy popcorn movie in 3D. Not that "On Stranger Tides" was completely crappy because it wasn't, but it's not worth $14.50. According to Hollywood Reporter, the most recent 
Pirates of the Caribbean film was shown in 3D on 67% of the screens it opened on, but those screens only brought in 47% of the revenue.  That's telling.  Next up for 3D this year is the cgi-drenched Green Lantern and Captain America.    

Plot:  Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back, this time in Londontown, hoping to save his former first mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from the hangman's noose.  While attempting to rescue his friend, Jack learns about an impostor recruiting a crew in his name.  This is where the movie is at it's best.  The scenes in London were enjoyable to watch and well done.  While in London, Jack impersonates a British judge as he alludes the authorities, only to be captured by King George II (Richard Griffiths) who intends to force Jack to guide an expedition to the Fountain of Youth before the Spanish find it. 

Leading the expedition is none other than Jack's old nemesis, Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now a peg-legged privateer in service to the crown.  Barbossa has his own ax to grind, this time with the infamous pirate Black Beard (Ian Mcshane).  Not only has Barbossa lost Jack's beloved ship to Black Beard, but he's also lost his leg.  Of course Jack manages to make a daring and lively escape from the British and he's nearly recaptured, if not for his father, Captain Teague, hilariously played by Keith Richards

Finally Jack sets out to meet his impostor Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who is recruiting men in his name, but is secretly recruiting men for Black Beard. Jack gets more than he bargained for with Angelica, who is Jack's former flame and Black Beard's illegitimate daughter.  Jack is soon back in captivity, this time in service to Black Beard.  Now there are three expeditions bound for the Fountain of Youth: the Spanish, the British, and Black Beard's.  Unfortunately, once the ships leave port, so does the movie.  The movie becomes downright dull and predictable once they leave for the Caribbean, which is odd.  One would think that the Caribbean would be more exciting than ole Londontown.  

Once we reach the Caribbean, all we get for our trouble is a doe-eyed mermaid (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) and over-acting, shirtless missionary, played by Sam Claflin.  Didn't know that shirtless and missionary went together.  I think the writers were attempting to mimic the Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly relationship to a lesser degree.  Unfortunately for the viewers they couldn't leave well enough alone.  Jack and Angelica were perfectly capable of carrying the movie without another forbidden romance developing between the lesser characters.  

What follows is a boring journey through the jungles of the Caribbean, whilst trying to find the chalices of Ponce de Leon.  There are a few zany moments in between that defy explanation, like when Jack and Barbossa are captured by the Spanish expedition and tied to coconut trees away from the camp so that the soldiers can't effectively guard them.  Who captures people and doesn't place them close enough to guard them?  Sloppy writing here.

There is also a "when mermaids attack" scene prior to the capture of the doe-eyed mermaid, as the chalices require a mermaid's tear to work.  Ok, whatever, that's fine, but turning mermaids into orca whales is just stupid.  One final issue, is the sword fighting.  You would think that a Pirates of the Caribbean film would have great swashbuckling, not so.  Instead, like the previous pirate films, we get cartoonish, fake sword fighting, jumping around, swinging through coconut trees, and hanging on chandeliers.  Where's the sword fighting?

What I liked most about this film was Jack Sparrow.  Yes, Johnny Depp was the most memorable character in the previous pirate films, but the previous films didn't focus on Jack Sparrow like this film does.  The previous films focused more on the mousy love fest of Orlando Bloom and pouty-faced Kiera Knightly.  In this film, Jack is allowed to be the Jack we've always wanted to see.   Johnny Depp is wonderful as always, with his mannerisms, one-liners, and his incredible chemistry with Cruz.


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